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Space Technology: Accelerating Agriculture Insurance

Technology has always been an integral part of agriculture, which has been highly successful in intriguing farmers towards better farming practices and thereby to crop insurance


Minister of State for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Gajendra Singh Shekhawat during the National conference on ‘Accelerating Agriculture Insurance’ released a FICCI - Skymet knowledge paper, titled ‘Accelerating Agriculture Insurance’ and an ICRIER working paper on ‘Crop Insurance in India: Key Issues and Way Forward’.

Challenges
According to the knowledge paper, Indian agriculture is dependent on monsoon in such a way that any deviation in the onset or departure of monsoon largely affects agricultural productivity in the entire Indian subcontinent by leaving farmers in the lurch. The vagaries of monsoon still decide the fate of farmers across the country, especially in the drought-prone regions. It is estimated that over 50% of the total population of the country is engaged in agriculture and a majority of them are still dependent on monsoonal rain for irrigation.

Indian monsoon has a direct relationship with the global climate change, which is evidently showing impact across the country in forms like the early and the late arrival of monsoon, temporal fluctuation in the onset of seasons, unprecedented rainfall and associated phenomena. Huge variations in the climatic conditions make it challenging to tackle the menace of climate change especially related to key environmental parameters such as temperature and rainfall.

There has been growing consensus among climatologists that global temperatures and precipitation patterns are changing. The last three decades have seen a gradual drop in the quantum of precipitation during the monsoon. The remarkable increase in temperatures and decrease in the amount of rainfall has already started hampering crop production in the country. In addition to this, the number of rainy days has also reduced with the rainfall averages remaining the same, thereby causing uncertainties.

Another impact of climate change hampering the crop production is the increasing incidents of El Niño and La Niña, which have been having a direct impact on the monsoonal precipitation. El Niño has been proven to have influenced global temperatures besides global warming. The worst part about both these phenomenon is that their earliest indication comes very late.

In recent years, the erratic and unpredictable behaviour of monsoon, accentuated by climate change has caused extensive financial losses in terms of crop failures, damage to agricultural infrastructures, loss of lives and properties etc. due to natural and man-made disasters and destruction to environment and farmlands. This has aggravated food insecurity in the country.

Way Forward
The paper states that in order to combat this challenge, there is need to adopt a strategy which may provide a comprehensive solution to farming communities for safeguarding agricultural productivity. Crop Insurance is one such area which is gaining momentum in the contemporary scenario. This is considered as the best option to transfer the cost of potential losses due to disaster or emergency situations. By adopting crop insurance, farmers can also leverage technology and data analysis to monitor, manage, and reduce the impact of those risks.

The government has taken several initiatives for the overall sustainable development of farmers and cultivators to protect livelihoods and to enhance their agricultural productivity. These may enhance credit flow to farmers and expand the area of crop insurance and irrigation coverage specifically in the era of changing climate.

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) is one such initiative of crop insurance launched by the Government of India, which is a comprehensive scheme of insurance coverage against crop failures. The Government aims to provide crop insurance for PMFBY to 50% of the total cropped area during 2018-19.

Digital revolution is a well-established concept among the contemporary agricultural communities. Technology has always been an integral part of agriculture, which has been highly successful in intriguing farmers towards better farming practices and thereby to crop insurance. Even one of the significant highlights of PMFBY is to adopt the modern technological innovations.

Agriculture is a highly localised activity and therefore, information must be tailored to specific conditions. Thus, staying abreast with the modern technological innovations like digital sensor-based weather forecasting, GIS-based crop estimation, Drone-based surveillance among other technological interventions can maximise the benefits of crop insurance scheme for farmers as well as agricultural output.

According to the FICCI-Skyment paper, technological interventions play a significant role in agri-risk insurance in the country. The prospective areas where these interventions can inculcate a new culture of development and resilience at all levels are Insurance coverage, Sowing risk, Crop mapping, Price fixing, Localised risk coverage, Crop cutting experiment, Crop failure and damage assessment and Disaster risk management.

Technology-based information products and services are important and relevant inputs for the above-mentioned areas in better planning to cover various risks in agricultural productivity, the paper says.

Weather-based Crop Insurance Scheme is also a remarkable insurance solution that is greatly contributing to promote digital revolution in the agriculture sector. This provides protection against crops and agri- losses resulting from the weather adversities. In this scheme, the crop losses are assessed on the basis of actual weather data received from the approved automatic weather stations installed at pre-defined places in different locations. Major weather risks arising out of parameters like rainfall, relative humidity, temperature, wind etc. are covered under the ambit of this scheme.

With the gaining momentum of technological interventions in the agricultural sector, the risk related to agriculture has also increased exponentially. Thus, there is a need to adopt a well-structured strategy to combat the emerging challenge of agri-risk in the country.

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